A grander de­sign

The Dis­cov­ery Sport is good look­ing and ca­pa­ble but not with­out nig­gles

Herald Sun - Motoring - - THE TICK - WITH PAUL GOVER

YOU have to try re­ally hard, even in the mod­ern world, to get fur­ther from Aus­tralia than Ice­land.

I have been twice, first to drive a Volk­swa­gen Golf in the heat of sum­mer and then to drive the new Land Rover Dis­cov­ery Sport in the depths of win­ter.

The old Golf was good in Ice­land and good, but not great, at home.

The Disco felt great in the snow and on ice, and even driv­ing down a river with mini ice­bergs. How will it per­form at home? I jump into a SD4 diesel for some fam­ily time.

I should con­fess my dis­like for the mid-sized SUV that the Dis­cov­ery Sport re­places. The Free­lander, even af­ter the im­prove­ments for the Mark II, was way too cramped, old­fash­ioned and un­der­whelm­ing.

So the new­comer al­ready has a head start, with­out wor­ry­ing about an all-new ap­proach to the fam­ily needs of peo­ple who prob­a­bly love the look of a Range Rover Evoque but need more prac­ti­cal­ity and car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity.

“I think we’ve got the right car in the right space,” says Jaguar Land Rover boss Matthew Wies­ner.

“The mar­ket ul­ti­mately de­ter­mines if our po­si­tion is right. The 1000 cus­tomers in the or­der bank seem to con­firm that we’ve got it right.”

What they want is a new-age SUV from the his­toric Bri­tish brand, with gen­uine off-road ca­pa­bil­ity (even if they don’t use it) and a roomier cabin, more tech­nol­ogy and greater com­fort.

It’s a very crowded field — it takes in the Audi Q5 and the Volvo XC60, go­ing al­pha­bet­i­cally, and in­cludes such dis­parate con­tenders as the BMW X4, Jeep Cherokee and Subaru Forester — yet the new Land Rover clearly makes some im­pres­sive claims.

The com­fort­able ride that im­pressed in Ice­land car­ries

over, as do the turbo diesel shove and the classy cabin lay­out. The op­tional five-plus-two cabin — as in the orig­i­nal Dis­cov­ery — has a pair of “oc­ca­sional” seats as the third row.

There are the nas­ties, too. Even for a diesel, the en­gine noise is far too in­tru­sive, the au­to­matic trans­mis­sion is a $2500 op­tion and there’s no capped-price ser­vice plan, even though one is now in place at Jaguar.

The so­lu­tion to the en­gine noise is at hand with the com­ing of JLR’s new-gen­er­a­tion In­ge­nium diesels. There is clat­ter at idle and it’s too noisy gen­er­ally at high­way speed for an all-new model in 2015.

Wies­ner de­fends the au­to­matic cost by cit­ing the nine-speed self-shifter’s tech­nol­ogy. Do pres­tige buy­ers re­ally even con­sider a man­ual? The start­ing price is rea­son­able at $53,300 but that should in­clude the auto.

So, back on the road. The sus­pen­sion is cushy but sup­port­ive and the switch­able driv­e­line en­ables se­ri­ous of­froad­ing. It’s also good for tow­ing.

The cabin is roomy with great out­ward vi­sion. The shape of the seat and the dash­board lay­out earn ex­tra ad­mi­ra­tion.

Another nig­gle: the Merid­ian au­dio in the test car can’t be linked to the latest sat­nav and that means the load­ing is too slow and clunky. Once again, JLR says a fix is com­ing.

Wies­ner says the short­com­ings are be­ing ad­dressed as a pri­or­ity although the In­ge­nium diesels might be 12 months away.

He says buy­ers are com­ing from var­i­ous ri­vals and seg­ments. “What we have been watch­ing very care­fully is where our cus­tomers have been com­ing from, what they were driv­ing. We are see­ing a strong flow from the Asian brands, in quite a broad mix from Toy­ota to Subaru to Mazda, with Volk­swa­gen in there as well,” he says.

“We’re pulling peo­ple up (to this seg­ments). De­sign is work­ing for us. It’s a lot more ap­peal­ing than Free­lander.”

The Dis­cov­ery Sport copes easily with car­ry­ing bikes and other young­ster kit. It’s a good drive and pretty good value.

It also steps well away from po­ten­tial ri­vals such as the BMW X3 be­cause it is so much more ca­pa­ble. Its good looks tap into the Evoque styling but pro­vide much more rear legroom and far bet­ter rear ac­cess.

So it’s stylish, com­fort­able and fuss-free. It also com­pletely erases un­pleas­ant mem­o­ries of the Free­lander.


I’ve al­ready rec­om­mended the Dis­cov­ery Sport to some good friends and one is ex­tremely happy af­ter tak­ing de­liv­ery of his new fam­ily bus. So that means, even with a few nig­gles at home, it gets The Tick.

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